Author: JL Merrow
Series: Shamwell Tales #3
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Available: Jan 19th
When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?
Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.
His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.
Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.
Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.
Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.
Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley
While on the whole I enjoyed this cute little tale of a divorced man on the verge of turning forty, cautiously feeling his way out of the closet, and the younger man who helps him get there, it’s also a book in which not a lot actually happens. Mark can be sweet if a little self-important as he attempts to build a relationship with his teenage daughter for the first time, while Patrick is prone to angry flare-ups regarding moral injustice, but apart from the pair of them actually hooking up, things at the end are pretty much the same as where they were at the start.
The story itself is light and fluffy with plenty of fun, but I have to admit that neither Mark nor Patrick really grabbed me in this book. I found Fen, Mark’s fourteen year old daughter, a much stronger character than her father. Yes, she’s a teenager with plenty of attitude, but she also has her good moments and is surprisingly caring given the chance (even if I found the idea of her mother handing her over just like that a bit hard to believe). David, Mark’s ex-PA, and highly camp friend, is striking and memorable and also sweet, while Lex, Patrick’s work colleague and non-binary friend was much more interesting than everyone else combined.
That’s not to say Mark and Patrick are boring… although Mark is pretty dull, bless him. Other than worrying about what he’s doing wrong with Fen and what he’s going to do about Patrick, he doesn’t actually do much. While Patrick is so busy running around organising things and flaring up over misunderstandings, that I didn’t feel like I got to know him too well.
One thing I definitely liked about the pair of them, though, was that the age gap really didn’t matter. Not when they were together and alone. Mark has so little experience and such low expectations that it meant Patrick took the lead for much of their relationship, and seemed almost like the older of the two. There definitely wasn’t any power imbalance, just a few misunderstandings when it came to real-life experiences and hang ups.
If you’re looking for a light M/M read in which family and friends play a major role, where there’s not so much a romance as a relaxation of worries and cute coming together, then this should fit the bill. I didn’t find it quite as funny as Played!, but Shamwell is just as quirky and charming as ever, and I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard of the place. Especially if it involves David or Lex.
Out! is out January 19th!
Visit JL Merrow for more details.